Italian desserts are unique in their use of natural flavors and simple ingredients to create treats that are not too sweet but always enjoyable. Here are a few of the most popular Italian desserts.
Italian cuisine is really something special. The ingredients are fresh, the meals come together with so much love, and everything you taste is bursting with flavor.
It also seems like Italian meals are just meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. It’s easy to feed a crowd with pizza and Ravioli Filling in homemade pasta and bring everyone together to share a meal. A big skillet of Authentic Italian Sausage and Peppers fulfills the savory requirement of a meal and makes enough for a hungry family.
You can find pizza or pasta for sale on just about every street in America and in many other parts of the world too, but what deserves just as much love are the desserts that have come from Italy.
I don’t think anyone can resist the fresh taste of a fruity gelato, a crunchy cannoli or the rich creaminess of authentic tiramisu. Do you know the differences between Italian Ice vs Gelato? Check out what you need to know when deciding which one to prepare at your home. You could also be on the fence about Macarons. Here’s what you should know when deciding between a French vs Italian Macaron for dessert.
It could be that all these Italian recipes use much less sugar than American delicacies, which results in a sweet treat that is light, creamy and full of natural flavors like cheese, nuts, coffee, and maybe even a splash of wine.
There is just enough sweetness in a classic Italian dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth but not so much that you feel like you ate an entire candy store. You don’t have to scrape any heavy, sugary, buttermilk frosting off of an Italian dessert.
If you are planning your next gathering for pizza or pasta or any special occasions, don’t forget to include some of these incredibly easy Italian desserts as well!
Gelato (from Homemade Italian Cooking) is Italian ice cream. It is made with the same basic ingredients as ice cream like cream, milk and egg yolks, but in different proportions. Gelato has less cream than ice cream and uses more milk.
It is churned more slowly which makes it heavier and more dense, and typically it is served in smaller portions than ice cream because it is so rich and filling. Somehow even when it is more dense, it contains less fat and leaves you feeling refreshed rather than weighed down.
Gelato comes in as many flavors as ice cream. It can be flavored with fresh fruit or sweetened with chocolate or caramel. Sometimes it is topped with nuts or sauces, and it can be served in a cone or cup.
A cannoli (from Cooking Classy) is a fried Sicilian pastry tube filled with a sweet, whipped cream filling.
The crust is made with simple ingredients and rolled out like pie crust before it is wrapped around a form and deep fried.
Traditionally the creamy filling is sweetened, whipped ricotta cheese, but over the years chefs have added all sorts of flavors. You may find homemade cannoli recipes with different fruit or chocolate flavors and plenty of more modern twists.
The pastry is often dipped in chocolate or topped with a drizzle of chocolate, chocolate chips, and nuts like pistachios.
Tiramisu is a creamy, fluffy, layered cake. My traditional tiramisu recipe is made with ladyfinger cookies dipped in strong espresso and layered with a creamy custard made of eggs, mascarpone cheese and a bit of marsala wine. You can also make this using Italian sponge cake! The dish is topped with cocoa powder that adds flavor and evens out some of the sweetness.
The layers of cake melt into each other as the creamy dessert rests, creating a dish that is a classic favorite.
There are hundreds of ways to make tiramisu, like this Strawberry Tiramisu, but it is actually a very simple no-bake dessert that is light, flavorful and creamy and perfect for serving to dinner party guests.
Panna cotta (from Pretty Simple Sweet) is a cold Italian dessert with a jello-like consistency and a creamy flavor. It is usually topped with fruit, nuts or chocolate sauce.
Panna cotta literally translates to “cooked cream”. It’s made with cream, sugar, vanilla and gelatin. It is usually made in individual servings inside a small cup and then inverted onto a plate and topped with toppings.
Biscotti is a twice-baked cookie, usually containing nuts. It is the perfect dessert to enjoy with a nice cup of coffee, and they are even known as traditional Italian breakfast cookies.
Biscotti are made crisp on purpose. This allows them to be dipped in coffee, milk or hot chocolate and softened to the perfect texture.
Biscotti are traditionally made with anise seeds or almonds but there are hundreds of variations including adding pistachios, cranberries, almonds, or white chocolate.
Zabaglione (from Recipes from Italy), also called zabaione, is a whipped custard or drink that is served warm or cold. It is made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine.
This dessert can be likened to a custard in texture, and is usually served in a cup with fresh fruit!
Pizzelle are delicate, crispy snowflake-shaped cookies. These are just one of many popular Italian Christmas Cookies.
They are made with a thin batter that is pressed and cooked in a device that looks similar to a waffle iron. Every easy classic pizzelle recipe truly hinges on the pizzelle maker you use to cook them.
Once cooked, pizzelle can be enjoyed plain, with powdered sugar or with nutella.
These cookies are simple and very lightly sweet. Leftover pizzelle can even be used as makeshift cannoli pastries.
Zeppole (from Italian Chef) are small, fluffy balls of fried dough. They are essentially American donuts, but the topping is usually kept very simple with just sugar or powdered sugar on top.
Zeppole are a popular street food to find during festivals, especially Father’s Day or St. Joseph’s Day in March. Vendors may serve them in bags, topped with sugar.
In bakeries you may find zeppole shaped into circles and sandwiched with custard or cream and topped with chocolate ganache or a candied cherry.
Anise cookies (from Marcellina In Cucina) may be referred to as Italian wedding cookies, Italian rainbow cookies, or almond cookies. They are a fairly versatile cookie made for weddings and other celebrations and are an ideal dessert to add to a Christmas cookie plate.
These small, simple cookies can be flavored with anise, almond, vanilla or lemon. They are formed into small balls and covered in a simple sugar glaze. Often they are topped with rainbow sprinkles.
The dough is made thick and refrigerated before baking which allows them to stay in a ball form, but sometimes too much flour can make them dry. When made right they should be soft, chewy and with just a light hint of sweetness.
Italian Apple Cake
Italian apple cake, or Torte di Mele (from The Petite Cook), is a thick, delicious cake with chunks of apples and a light lemon flavor.
This rustic dessert is made with plenty of lemon zest, apple zest and apple chunks. It is almost more apple than batter which makes it just the right amount of sweet and natural ingredients.
It is traditionally baked into a can pan that is similar to a bundt cake pan, but it can be made in a round cake pan as well.
Cassata (from The Spruce Eats) is a traditional cake recipe that comes from Sicily, though it is now enjoyed all over Italy. It is made by brushing a sponge cake with fruit juice or liqueur and then layering it with candied fruit and cannoli filling. It is then decorated with colored marzipan (usually green) and decorated with more candied fruit!
Cassata can also be made in a mini version called a cassatina, which boasts a larger ratio of marzipan to cake. It is beautiful and delicious!
Italy is known for its amazing desserts, and these suggestions just barely scratched the surface!! Try out these Italian desserts by either making them at home or eating them on your next Italian vacation. And if you try any other delicious Italian desserts, let me know what they are in the comments!
Read more about Italy: Recipes, Background and Culture to keep learning about this little country!